China and Belarus express ‘extreme interest’ in Ukraine peace
The leaders of China and Belarus have expressed their “extreme interest” in a peaceful resolution in Ukraine.
Chinese President and Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, issued the statement after talks in Beijing.
Mr Lukashenko said his country “fully supports” a Beijing plan for ending the war in Ukraine.
China announced a plan for peace talks last week, calling for the respect of national sovereignty.
The visit comes days after China sent its top diplomat Wang Yi to meet Mr Putin.
Mr Lukashenko and Mr Xi’s meeting also coincided with a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Central Asian nations to discuss the Ukraine war.
On Wednesday, China and Belarus “expressed deep concern” about the conflict and “extreme interest in the soonest possible establishment of peace in Ukraine”, the Belarus state-run news agency Belta reported.
Mr Lukashenko has aided the Russian leader in his war in Ukraine, and observers have seen his trip to Beijing as another sign of China closing ranks with Russia and its allies.
The Belarus leader praised China’s peace plan.
The 12-point document urges respect for “the sovereignty of all countries”. It does not specifically say Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine and condemns the usage of “unilateral sanctions”, an implicit criticism of Ukraine’s Western allies.
Mr Lukashenko said he “fully supports the initiative on international security you have put forward”, according to remarks released by his aides.
Political decisions “should be aimed at first and foremost preventing a slide into a global confrontation that will see no winners”, he told Mr Xi.
China’s peace plan was met with general distrust in the West.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he agreed with some parts of it and said it was a sign of China’s willingness to engage. Beijing has so far not publicly responded to Mr Zelensky’s call for a summit.
The Chinese leader called for discarding “all Cold War mentality”, according to a Chinese readout of the meeting with Mr Lukashenko.
Mr Xi added that countries “should stop politicising” the world economy and to “do things that will aid a ceasefire, cessation of war, and a peaceful resolution”.
Mr Lukashenko’s three-day visit comes after China upgraded the status of its relationship with Belarus in September, several months into the Ukraine war.
Chinese foreign ministry statements have described their ties as an “all-weather comprehensive strategic partnership”, a rare term that has been used for only one other country – Pakistan.
Belarus has been a key ally for Russia from the very beginning of the conflict when it allowed Moscow to use the Belarusian border with Ukraine as a launchpad for an attack on Kyiv, which eventually failed.
China, meanwhile, has attempted to appear neutral by stating support for both sovereignty and the right to national security, which are Ukraine and Russia’s respective interests.
But Beijing has also refused to condemn Moscow and supported their war effort in indirect ways. Chinese state media has actively propagated Russian’s view on the war, according to multiple analyses.
The Chinese government strongly rejected claims made by the United States last week that it was considering supplying weapons and ammunition to Russia.
“We do not accept the United States’ finger-pointing on China-Russia relations, let alone coercion and pressure,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said when asked about the allegations.
Chinese firms are also accused of supplying dual-use technology – goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, such as drones and semi-conductor chips – to Russia.
Wednesday’s visit took place as the US made its own diplomatic push, with Mr Blinken touring Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In a speech in Uzbekistan, he noted the war had “fostered deep concern across the region” and stressed the US’ commitment to sovereignty.
“After all, if a powerful country is willing to try to erase the borders of a sovereign neighbour by force, what’s to stop it from doing the same to others? Countries across Central Asia understand this,” he said.
All five Central Asian countries are former members of the Soviet Union who have trade ties with Russia and China. But they have largely remained neutral during the war, adhered to Western sanctions and expressed unease at Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, also an ex-Soviet state.